NFL opens study linking low tackles to knee injuries

Scott Halleran

A couple of ugly-looking hits to the knee have sparked controversy this preseason.

The NFL's competition committee will monitor hits at or below the knees to defenseless players this season and will use the study to determine if a rule is necessary to restrict them, according to Barry Wilner of the Associated Press.

Hits to the head or neck of defenseless players are already outlawed, but hits at or below the knees are not. Two incidents this preseason sparked the question of if they should be banned: One ended Miami Dolphins tight end Dustin Keller's season with a torn ACL, and the other resulted in a hyperextended knee for Minnesota Vikings defensive tackle Kevin Williams.

Houston Texans rookie safety D.J. Swearinger made the hit on Keller, and he said he was aiming low to avoid a fine for helmet-to-helmet contact. San Francisco 49ers guard Joe Looney's block on Williams came on a running play about 10 yards away from the nearly dead action, and he said he "meant no harm by the block at all," according to Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com.

Looney's block was ruled legal.

After collecting a season's worth of data on similar low tackles, the competition committee will decide if such hits are becoming a problem, Wilner reported. If the competition committee decides to make a rule-change recommendation, any amendment would be sent to the owners for a vote next March.

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